Monday, November 16, 2009

Interview with Lauren Jones of mydearthing

Lauren Jones is the woman behind label and online shop, mydearthing. With her love of jersey, draping, and sustainable clothing, this one has been in my Etsy Favorites list, and thus on my radar, for quite some time. I may have jumped the gun a bit with a recent post on the newest mydearthing listings. So please excuse me if you've already seen some of these pictures of the new Hindset Collection. But little did I know that those listings were just a preview of Lauren's new work, and that Lauren is one of the sweetest Etsyians ever. So here, I present to you, once again, the gorgeous new pieces and the amazing woman who has made them with her own hands. And, I must say, after doing this interview, I felt a bit like Lauren and I could be the same person in parallel universes or something. Except, you know, she has megastar talent. Sigh.


You started as a psychology student and are now running your own label - what happened, and do you regret the career change at all?

No, I do not regret dropping out in the slightest. I went straight to college out of high school, had no idea what I wanted to do/be, and left after 3 years to manage a women’s boutique in downtown Wilmington, NC. That turned out to be a lot more applicable to my current life than anything I had learned in college. At the time, I was just working for money to live and had no idea that I was actually acquiring the foundations for my future online boutique!

Going to school for psychology was not wasted time either. When you get down to it, fashion and psychology totally go hand in hand. It's why we wear what we wear to present what kind of image to whomever we are trying to impress, or not impress. It's all some kind of reaction to who we are and the more you know about that the better.

What is the first piece you ever designed?

The pieces for my application portfolio to FIT (The Fashion Institute of Technology) when I was 23. Jersey dresses with a shit-ton of layered wavy stitches so the hems wouldn’t roll. They were all created with only one seam and somehow I managed to make them look relatively normal (some even had sleeves, or shelf-bras), even though I had never sewn from a pattern or anything. It's a good thing they didn’t want to see the actual garments (just pictures and illustrations) because they were a MESS.

What is your formal design training background, and do you plan on going on with your studies?

One of the side effects of my botched first attempt at college was that I had a bunch of basic studies completed, so I was able to transfer to FIT rather painlessly. Technically, I have an Associate’s degree in fashion design. I decided not to continue with the BA - and I don’t wish I had - BUT I would like the degree. I teach a fashion club at an UWS high school and if I hadn’t happened to fall into that job, I wouldn’t have been hired because I don’t have a BA (shhhh...). If my husband and I ever leave New York, I will have a problem getting a teaching job, which I would like to do. At the same time, I can’t imagine how painfully slow it would feel to have to go back to school at this point.

You used to be a knitwear designer for Urban Outfitters and Anthropologie. How did that gig come about?

I kind of fell into that job as well. I wanted more experience than the plethora of internships had given me, so I applied to a small studio in the city that was one of the 3rd party contributors to UO and Anthropologie for knitwear. I applied as a part-time intern, met with the boss, and left with a full-time design job. I was doing the Coincidence and Chance knitwear line, and also a lot of the cut and sew things that would get distributed under the Kimchi Blue, silence + noise, and BDG labels. But, sometimes it is quicker to learn what you don't want than to know what you do, and I can thank my last job for that. So here I am, working as far away from the industry as I am able to. Thank you Etsy for giving me an alternative!

What is your most treasured piece of clothing, either bought or self-made?

I get very emotionally attached to things (that’s actually why I decided to name the label mydearthing), so there are quite a few items on this list. I also have an extreme distaste for trends and try to keep those things out of both my closet and my collections, which leads to a permanent attachment. When I buy things, I buy them to wear until they die and then mourn their death. When I was 15, I used to wear a grey zippy that was my dad’s from when he was in high school. It was lost on a plane - not by me, I was tricked - and I still miss that thing, all soft and falling apart like it was... I commandeered one of my husband's jackets and a sweater of his which I wear all the time because it feels right. My mom sews and really likes making blazers (of all things), so I have a few of those that are really special to me. She always puts an embroidered heart somewhere on the inside for me to stumble upon sometime during the day. I have a Space Ghost t-shirt that I screen printed when I was was a teenager. I also have a sweater my paternal grandmother hand-knitted my mom for Christmas when she was 22. It’s just incredible.

Do you wear your own designs?

Constantly. Rarely are there days when I am not wearing at least something I made. You have to represent!

Have you ever seen someone you don't know wearing your designs?

Only once, so far. And it was a big day! It just happened, like, 2 weeks ago. I was walking to the little Polish post office in my neighborhood, was 3 blocks from my apartment, and come across a girl who looked amazing in one of the sweaters I made when I was working for Urban Outfitters. I smiled big as life at her and I’m sure she thought I was drunk or something. I have yet to come across someone who is wearing a mydearthing, but I should definitely have sent out a disclaimer with every purchase that stated by wearing the garment the customer is agreeing to not press charges if some complete stranger comes up, takes their picture in it, hugs them violently, then skips away squeaking excitedly with tears in her eyes. It juuuust might happen.

What are your main sources of inspiration while creating new pieces?

Sometimes I will find myself thinking about a book I read a month ago or an image I saw that is resurfacing and lingering so I start to be haunted in a way. That’s how I know that I have to expand upon it in my own way to just get it the hell out of my head! When I am creating a collection, I have these half-dreams about how to create what look and feeling I am trying to impress, both visual concept and actual patternmaking dreams. I absolutely love patternmaking. My mom’s side of the family is really creative and crafty, but my dad’s side is chock full of left-brainers. My dad himself is an engineer, so when I was growing up he was constantly trying to impress foresight and efficiency into me. With my patterns I try to find the best, most minimal way of cutting and constructing each garment, without loosing fit or appeal. Necessity is a huge source of inspiration for me, personally, and I will bring that into each thing I create.

Do you listen to music while working, and what band/albums really get the creative process going?

I work alone in my apartment and it can be really lonely, so I am always listening to music. It affects what I am doing and I choose it each morning with that in mind. While I was designing/making the Hindset collection, I was listing to The XX, Autolux, Beck, Benji Hughes (which totally reminds me of early Beck), Experimental Aircraft, The Big Sleep, Pavement, the Knife, Morphine, and Tom Waits a lot. I listen to in the morning to hear John Richards’ set.

Do you prefer creating knit pieces or fabric pieces? Do you plan on creating more accessories like your popular Kept Collection Locket or your new Fishbone Belt?

I don’t know which technique I prefer. A little of each, please! I have just started doing some small wholesale orders, and creating a size run of one style of a knit garment on my machine is maddening. It’s nice to change it up. I used to do a jewelry internship before I decided on fashion, and I am enjoying becoming familiar again with what I learned before. I really like having a wide range of different items in my shop that all compliment each other. For the winter collection, I am creating some multi-chain necklaces that can be worn a bunch of different ways and some glove thing-ys that are pretty cool, in addition to the belt. For me, it is just part of developing the collection fully.

Where do you see the most sales and interest in your work: in brick-and-mortar stores, or online in your Etsy shop and with blogs featuring your work?

Definitely online in the Etsy shop. It is worldwide and gaining customers everyday. And blogs are such an important part of it! If I see a spike in views to my shop, or even with just one listing, I Google myself and find who wrote something about me. There is a direct correlation. I do get to interact with the customers online, see what they like, and track what goes where. Ultimately, you never know what is going to sell. All I can do is continue to make what I want to and do my best to listen to the response.

What is your favorite piece from your new Winter 09 collection?

I really really like the 3XD Dress (pictured to right). It was the piece that I made first and it really snowballed into the whole collection. Also the Split Sweater (pictured bottom centre). I wear it as often as I can without being gross.

What do you do when you're not working?

Dreaming about working. I love my job! In all seriousness though, I spend time with my husband, my friends and my 3 cats.

Where do you see your label heading in the future?

In the future, I would really like to collaborate with my husband more. He is an artist and a graphic designer and has such an amazing and different response to what I am doing with each collection. He is a very intuitive person with an eye for good design, even fashion, and has suggested/come up with plenty of things that are part of what I do. For the Kept Collection, he wanted to do graphic prints on my Double V shirts to add a different element to it. Not only did it make the collection complete, it re-started my enthusiasm for that design, which I had lost after making a ga-jillion of them over the past few years! You can look at the fashion show pictures on my Facebook site. It's on there. I am intending to sell these shirts on the Etsy site soon. They are all monoprints done by my husband ( and really freaking cool.


And so are you Lauren, so are you.

Visit the mydearthing Etsy shop to get yourself a piece from the new Hindset collection or previous collections - I know I'm going to have trouble picking myself out a piece or two! And for more views of each piece, visit the mydearthing Facebook page.

Top photo: Fold-Up Trench with Way Shrug worn as a scarf/cowl and Fingerful Warmers

2nd photo (on left): One Pocket Dress with Forward Necklace

3rd photo (on right): Way Shrug worn as a shirtlet with Fishbone Belt

4th photo (on left): Pocket Short Sleeve T with Fingerful Warmers

5th photo (on left): 3XD Dress

Bottom photos (from left to right): Way Shrug; Split Sweater; Sheer Back Racer Dress

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